Thursday, March 7, 2019

Blue Phantom - 1971 - Distortions

Blue Phantom

01. Diodo (3:55)
02. Metamorphosis (3:07)
03. Microchaos (2:48)
04. Compression (2:56)
05. Equilibrium (4:06)
06. Dipnoi (2:56)
07. Distillation (3:52)
08. Violence (3:13)
09. Equivalence (2:42)
10. Psycho-Nebulous (5:02)

- H. Tical / composer & producer
(Musicians not credited)

Heh, why has H. Tical (aka Armando Sciascia - a renowned Italian "sexy film" composer) produced such a seriously heavy stuff?
A interesting album indeed, recorded by BLUE PHANTOM, a secret anonymous project with very little information around them. But at the same time, we can understand why psychedelic progressive rock fans can be immersed in this obscure album. Listen to the first track "Diodo" and we can feel something of sinkable depth with a bunch of heavy riffs by rigid bass & drums and an exploded guitar solo, plus quirky, weird keyboard sounds. What a cunningly worked-out musical trap by H. Tical. Also "Metamorphosis" is not simply a bluesy, tragic but a perversely vertiginous song. Unchanged sarcastic keyboard sounds and noises around us. Delightful drumming and cool melodies can be impressive in the following hollow-chaotic track "Microchaos" or the first magma of B-side "Dipnoi". "Compression" has some bubbled guitar, keyboard sounds and heavy progressive elements. "Equilibrium" is characterized with sentimental, unrefined keyboard chandeliers upon extreme noise terror by warping bass playing. Terrifically violent "Violence", with a tragic guitar solo around over. A short but pure psychedelic ballad is the next "Equivalence" in a dark shower of dark guitars, bass, drums ... contrary to "Distillation", a heavy heavy hero song by the (maybe) same instruments. The last "Psycho-Nebulous" is slightly artificial man-made machinery one but enough to spread Tical's powerful catecholamine.

High volume guitar, acid organ and a riff that reminds clearly to Iron Butterfly. This is how this album welcomes you. It's a project of Armando Sciascia that was used to write B-movies soundtracks. Diodo has something of the spy-movie, but the organ sounds as it was played by Rick Wright in the 60s.
All the tracks are heavy and jazz-oriented, still good for a thriller movie if you want, but images are not necessary. The pity is that all are limited to 3 or 4 minutes maximum so they have to fade out.

The level is good throughout all the album, including the sound quality. Highlights are tracks like "Compression" (very Floydian), the hard-rock of "Dipnoi", the clues od Syd Barrett on "Distillation" and the most acid track of the album, "Psycho-Nebulous".

Being good for soundtracks means that all the music is evocative of dark or weird situations. Not scary but "alerting".

Not an absolute masterpiece of the genre but a really good album that's one of the few existing documents of Italian psychedelia of early 70s. A period dominated in Italy by the Dylan-folk songs of singers-songwriters and the beginnings of RPI.

There is the strangest mishmash here, but what it really comes down to speaking about is a blend of psychedelic rock and library music. This sounds so clinical, so let me put it another way. There is a heartwrenching slab of newer animation called Mary and Max that I watched with a girl as one of our first Netflix boyfriend-and-girlfriend sessions (because is this not something that dating is all about as a young adult in the 2010s?). We both cried, or I hid my eyes while she cried, or put it onto my agenda to purge later and then let it get stuck in my queue for about a year too long. Anyway, there's a part where Mary has lost Max's trust as an adult woman and she's standing in her home with a bottle. She's drinking, she's grasping at love, she's falling over, and by the end of the movie, something has happened that makes the scene feel like it was completely necessary for us to see, but completely pointless for her to have to feel. That's how I feel every time I drink alcohol, and it's the haze of danger that I feel Distortions wants to have lauding my brain into pouring that third shot at 7AM.

That all implies that Blue Phantom is sad music. Not one bit, but the music that played in that scene from Mary and Max was not unlike the ouzo-stained bathroom in "Compression", the modern car alarm sample that's somehow temporally displaced itself in "Violence", the Scooby Doo, 'we're going to catch you and chase you, but what will we actually do to you if we corner you' faux-danger that the 1960s was just starting to piece together. This feels like a period piece amongst music like it, and I don't know that I disapprove. By that, I mean it's a refreshing thing to see a 1971 album that doesn't want me overthinking it like Tago Mago, underthinking it like What's Going On and There's a Riot Going On, or left out of my mind with the grief that's image-instilled as Songs of Love and Hate would have me do. This is a record that seems to just be there, but not atypically or insignificantly. I love it when I'm reminded of this one's existence. Go to an actual library and watch that movie, then go home and put this on. Maybe you can rent the vinyl still from your county's coffers.

Blue Morning - 1973 - Blue Morning

Blue Morning 
Blue Morning

01. Danza Dei Palombari Lottatori
02. Panini Volanti
03. Farfalle Nella Pancia
04. Belmont Plaza
05. Una Sera Di Luglio, In Città Dopo Una Cena Col Morto

Drums, Percussion – Alfredo Minotti
Electric Bass – Sandro Ponzoni
Guitar – Roberto Ciotti
Soprano Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone, Flute, Piccolo Flute [Ottavino], Piano, Electric Piano [Fender Rhodes] – Maurizio Giammarco

A1 recorded spontaneously live.
Recorded 9/10/12 October 1972 @ Studio 38, Rome.

A Roman quartet with Maurizio Giammarco on sax/keys/flute, Roberto Ciotti on guitar, Sandro Ponzoni on bass and Alfredo Minotti on drums, which plays a Soft Machine-like Jazz Rock with plenty of abnormal but fairly enganging sax solos, light electric piano, sporadic flute and serious jazzy electric guitar.Love the fantastic drumming and the bass too.Nothing that moves out of Jazz'es scope, but the musicians are really gifted and the music breezes a strange atmosphere.Unfortunately this one was their sole work. Mint copies go for tripple digits, so a reissue would be very welcome!
While I've seen Blue Morning advertised as an Italian progressive rock band, in reality they are a jazz outfit with a few rock moments (noted mostly in the fuzz guitar outbursts on Side 1). Closer in style to the more experimental jazz groups working on the German MPS label.

Blocco Mentale - 1973 - ΠOA (Phi Omicron Alpha)

Blocco Mentale
ΠOA (Phi Omicron Alpha)

01. Capita (4:44)
02. Aria E Mele (4:34)
03. Impressione (8:27)
04. Io E Me (4:27)
05. La Nuova Forza (7:37)
06. Ritorno (5:34)
07. Verde (3:52)

- Aldo Angeletti / solist vocals, bass
- Michele Arena / vocal, drums
- Gigi "Roso" Bianchi / vocals, guitar
- Filippo Lazzari / vocals, keyboards and harmonica
- Dino Finocchi / solist vocals, sax and flute

Blocco Mentale was an Italian prog band from Lazio that was formed in 1972 by Bernardo "Dino" Finocchi (vocals, sax, flute), Aldo Angeletti (vocals, bass), Gigi Bianchi "Roso" (guitar, vocals), Filippo Lazzari (keyboards, vocals, harmonica) and Michele Arena (drums, vocals). In 1973 they released an interesting album called "ΠOA" (that in Greek means grass), featuring naives lyrics dealing with ecological subjects, in a style that could remind of bands like Le Orme, New Trolls and PFM. Despite the good quality, the album was not successful at all and, after the release of a last single, Blocco Mentale disbanded. Later they reformed with another name, Limousine, playing in a more commercial and conventional way. Blocco Mentale's debut work is really worth listen to and the band would have deserved definitively more credit. 

Their album is slightly longer than most vintage RPI at 40 minutes and deals with nature and the creeping realization that man was altering the environment in ways that would eventually lead to destruction. The group released another single after this album but then quickly folded which is a real shame. A message from the band in the liner notes states "We'd like to talk about nature. With these few tracks we'd like to remind the little green world that is still around us. Maybe there could be a different world than the one we've created, maybe you could discover too all the values of life that we have been lately disregarding. With love." Eventually the band would reform under another name Limousine and have some modest success with a more commercial sound. That band folded when keyboardist Lazarri, dealing with depression, attempted suicide. He died in 1991 in a car accident while heading to a gig in Rome. Like so many other quality one-shot Italian bands, drummer Michele Arena said the label signed them up upon hearing them play and then never provided any support or promotion once the album was pressed. 

While the accomplished heavy hitters of the Italian scene get most of the buzz, it is the undiscovered artistic gems of the lesser known groups that excite me, as they toiled in obscurity to produce their one-off magnum opus likely realizing they wouldn't get another chance. Blocco Mentale is one of my favorites, blending superb musicianship, great vocals, enthusiastic flurries of ideas, good sound, and thoughtful arrangements. While certainly not hard-edged and harsh like the more daring Italprog groups, Blocco is by no means pop drivel. They instead inhabit a middle ground combining catchy and memorable melodies with playing that is not flashy but is nearly understated perfection. The album glows with a warm organic sound that stimulates emotionally and intellectually on the musical side. Lyrically of course I cannot comment on the quality and I'm happy about that as the vocals are just another color of the sound. POA stands up with my other favorite lesser known gems like Reale Accademia, RRR, and Apoteosi in providing a musical experience that is extremely accessible and yet fulfilling enough for Italian prog fans.

Gnosis2000's Peter Thelen notes "Here's an Italian band from 1973 that, instead of taking their cue from the keyboard driven sound of ELP, have more in common with the sound of Jethro Tull, early PFM, maybe Blodwyn Pig, and perhaps early Yes as well; there are near-schizophrenic outbursts of high speed sax-driven rock going right into the folky flute and guitar textures similar to Per Un Amico era PFM. Of course there are keyboards here, piano, Hammond, mellotron, and more, but it's more an integral part of the music than a dominant force and vehicle for solos. The band has two lead vocalists, Aldo Angeletti who doubles on bass, and Dino Finocchi who also plays sax and flute. One of the two sounds surprisingly similar to the vocalist in Latte E Miele. The band creates a diversity of moods and currents within their music, moving effortlessly between styles, doing fast changes from a simpler accessible folk styling straight into ripping bits of jazz-rock, with intense involvement from all."[Peter Thelen] Dr. Progresso's web review adds "The album opens with angular staccato sax riffs and then slides into a lush melody somewhat reminiscent of PFM in their early (and best) days. There are rich vocal harmonies blended with organ and flute, and once again a Mediterranean sensibility which distinguishes much of the best Italian progressive rock. Swelling Mellotrons blend into vocal harmonies, and give way to a cascading piano line. The music moves around a lot in the course of the album. The fourth track, Io E Me, is an amazing Mediterranean blues, with a wailing harmonica taking the lead. One has the sense that the group was striving to produce a well-rounded album, rather than stamping out each track with the same stylistic cookie cutter. (This was an approach much more common in sixties and early seventies rock than it is today.)" [Dr. Progresso]

Blocco Mentale were a band from Rome who released this one-off in the most orgasmic year of Italian prog, 1973. It is slightly longer than most at 40 minutes and deals with nature and the creeping realization that man was altering the environment in ways that would eventually lead to destruction. The group released another single after this album but then quickly folded which is a real shame. A message from the band in the liner notes states "We'd like to talk about nature. With these few tracks we'd like to remind the little green world that is still around us. Maybe there could be a different world than the one we've created.maybe you could discover too all the values of life that we have been lately disregarding. With love." Nothing dated about the message although the telling of the story lyrically and visually is noted by some as perhaps..well.the main character deals with these issues via conversations with a yeah. While that aspect may come off as dated or naïve set it aside and enjoy the fine music to be had. Eventually the band would reform under another name Limousine and have some modest success with a more commercial sound. That band folded when keyboardist Lazarri, dealing with depression, attempted suicide. He died in 1991 in a car accident while heading to a gig in Rome. Like so many other quality one-shot Italian bands, drummer Michele Arena said the label signed them up upon hearing them play and then never provided any support or promotion once the album was pressed.

"Capita" begins with a guitar/sax tradeoff that instantly reminded me of Gentle Giant but soon becomes typical Italian sounding, with the romantic vocals, warm bass, acoustic, and flutes. Nice keyboard runs and good percussion accenting some choppy sounding guitar, the moods here move back and forth from contemplative to a mid-paced rock. I think it's a very good opener with lots of thoughtful instrumental choices arranged nicely together leaving the listener primed. "Aria e mele" again begins with playful saxophone that leads into a bouncy synth that soon changes to piano and bass. Soon the piano, bass, and flute are caught in a fiery jazzy section with the drummer..breaking down into a heavy harmonized vocal section leading back to a dark Crimson-like riff briefly. Much is happening very fast so it's hard to keep up typing as I listen.usually a great sign that the music is interesting! This song turns into a real maelstrom with everyone joining into this dramatic riff that stops as "Impressioni" is connected via the mellotron. The delicate opening begins with flute over a softly picked acoustic guitar and mellotron, the perfect balance to the stormy previous track. Then in walks a delightful nostalgic piano melody over the flute and tron. Yeah, it's nice. I think even those who don't like Blocco Mentale would have to admit that "Impressioni" is a fair piece of prog. Dramatic drum rolls arise and peak with cymbal crashes as the flute gets more intense. Then it falls back as the soft first vocal verse begins accompanied only by acoustic. There are several vocalists on this album and all are quite good and never annoying, and there is good balance between amount of vocal and instrumental sections. The chorus section is very nice with the mellotron coming back and a nice build-up of bass/drums. Around the 6 minute mark the sax and guitar spar for a bit with the keyboardist and they share some riffs punctuated by starts and stops controlled by the drummer. Then Finocchi lets rip with a nice front end sax solo and the song closes nicely leading into "Io e me."

Many of the tracks simply flow right into the next song giving the album a connected feeling rather than the typical fadeouts. "Io e me" starts with a bluesy harmonica section leading to the vocal and acoustic guitar strumming. Bass and hand drumming accompany the singing and harmonic until the mellotron creeps in briefly. The next section has harmonized vocals and a California sounding hippie vibe like they spent the afternoon jamming with Bobby and Pigpen. Definitely a shift in feel on this track that offers variety but is not up to the material preceding or following it. "La nuova forza" has a heavily pounded piano opening leading into a trippy keyboards sequence spiced with flute and good drumming, then a nicely altered acoustic guitar and flute play a pretty lead in to the vocals. Good sentimental melodies with catchy refrains put this close to proggy pop music but it is so well done it goes down very easily and there is enough care to the instrumental to sell it. Beautiful vocals blend with the warm bass and offer frequent guitar, flute, and piano as counterpoints. "Ritorno" is pure heaven with extended washes of lovely piano playing and amazingly well-crafted band jamming tight and focused-great track. "Verde" features a more sugary sound again over mellotron. The vocals are upbeat harmonies and the structure is standard but the playing expressive. Certainly the least proggy moment on the album but still enjoyable.

There are two CD versions, one on Mellow and one on Vinyl Magic. While the Mellow issue gives you two bonus tracks and better art reproduction, the sound quality is reported to be better on the VM release that I have. I have not heard Mellows, but I can vouch that the sound is good on the VM. Thus you can decide between sound or bonus tracks/artwork, personally I'd take the one that sounds better especially when dealing with the early 70s period.

While POA may never be hailed on the same level as the PFMs and QVLs I must recommend this album to all Italian fans. For those who like to find the gems, this one will deliver quality playing and melodic music to your ears and I think you will like it. It is not a perfect album or masterpiece but it's a damn good one. Not every attempt works and there are other moments that cry out for some special oomph that is missed. But the unabashed enthusiasm is undeniable and the results good enough to recommend to fans outside the Italian fanbase.

"ΠOA" is one of the most beautiful Italian progressive rock albums out there. BLOCCO MENTALE were really influenced by early-KING CRIMSON, GENESIS, and PFM. The music tends to alternate between heavy guitar/sax sections and softer acoustic guitar/mellotron/flute interludes. Yes, the formula is really popular (then and now), but the quality of the music here is rare. Most of the band members also provide vocals as the album develops. The richness, and variation, in the vocal sections really sets this album apart, and adds a subtle Italian theatrical influence. If you're interested in some of the lesser known Italian prog bands from the 70s, this is a great place to start.

Black Spirit - 1978 - Black Spirit

Black Spirit
Black Spirit

01. Crazy Times (8:19)
02. Punk Rock'n Roll (6:30)
03. Nicolino (7:23)
04. Who Are You (2:39)
05. Old Times (12:14)

- Nicola Ceravolo / guitar
- Salvatore Curto / keyboards, vocals
- Giovanni Granato / bass
- Johnny G.Peske / drums

Black Spirit is an italian band formed in 1970. After a few successfully live performances the band moves to Germany in order to sign their first release on Brutkasten (1978). Lately, this ultra rare effort has been re-issued Ohrwaschl. The band essentialy played in Germany until 1978. Musically speaking their sound is rather different than the lyrical and luminous italian prog rock. It is bluesy-hard-rockin music with discreet proggy tendances and krauty-psych sounding.

Despite the fact that they are Italian, Black Spirit figure among the exceptions in term of musical signature. Their own sound is at million miles away from the usual luxurious, neo-baroco and lyrical Italian progressive rock scene. In reality it's not so surprising because the album has been signed on a german label. The band is stylisticaly connected with trippy-kraut excentricies, mainly with the bluesy-heavy side of the genre (Birth Control, Electric Sandwich...). Their music is a nice and intuitive mixture of dynamic krauty improvs with harsh garagey guitar rhythms, discreet epic vintage keyboards, sometimes punctuated by pop-ish nervous vocals. Crazy Times starts as a basic rockin piece and progressively goes into a furious psychedelic blues rock jamming session, including perpetual guitar solos and solid repetitive rhythms. The two following tracks Punk Rock'n Roll and Nicolino are ultra fuzzy garagey hard rockin pieces. Old times closes the album with a playful blues rock improvisation based on screaming fuzz guitar sequences. The last minutes feature a great dose of emotional-moody organ chords. Not so good but spontaneous with lot of fun.

Biglietto Per L'Inferno - 2015 - Vivi. Lotta. Pensa.

Biglietto Per L'Inferno 
Vivi. Lotta. Pensa

01. Vivi. Lotta. Pensa. (5:51)
02. Narciso e Boccadoro (5:49)
03. La Canzone Del Padre (10:47)
04. Mente Solamente (6:31)
05. L'Amico Suicida (14:06)

- Mariolina Sala / vocals
- Claudio Canali / vocals, flute
- Pier Panzeri / acoustic & electric guitars
- Carlo Redi / mandolin, violin, acoustic guitar
- Giuseppe Cossa / piano, keyboards, accordion, melodeon
- Renata Tomasella / piffero, recorders, ocarina
- Ranieri Fumagalli / hornpipe, recorder, ocarina
- Enrico Fagnoni / electric & acoustic basses, acoustic guitar
- Mauro Gnecchi / drums, percussion

After a long hiatus, in 2007 il Biglietto per l'Inferno came back to life on the initiative of two founder members, Giuseppe "Pilly" Cossa and Mauro Gnecchi. With a renewed line up, the band started performing live the old repertoire from the seventies and in 2009 released a new studio album entitled Tra l'assurdo e la ragione (Between absurd and reason) featuring new arrangements of the historic pieces along with two new tracks. In 2015 il Biglietto per l'Inferno carried out this process of re-appropriation and reworking of their past by releasing a new studio album, Vivi. Lotta. Pensa. that in some way completes the work started with the previous one. It was released with a beautiful packaging on the AMS/BTF label and a three folds jacket with an art work by graphic artist Marco Menaballi that tries to depict its musical and lyrical content...
The current line up features Giuseppe "Pilly" Cossa (piano, keyboards, accordion, melodeon), Mauro Gnecchi (drums, percussion), Mariolina Sala (vocals), Ranieri "Ragno" Fumagalli (hornpipe, recorder, ocarina), Enrico Fagnoni (upright bass, electric and acoustic bass, acoustic guitar), Renata Tomasella (piffero, recorders, ocarina), Carlo Redi (violin, mandolin, acoustic guitar) and Pier Panzeri (electric and acoustic guitar). Along the years, old and new members have matured and incredible cohesion creating an amazing wall of sound where ethnic and folk elements are perfectly mixed with progressive rock while the new female vocalist should not be considered just a replacement for the original front man since Mariolina Sala is not just a singer but also an actress and a sensitive interpreter able to convey emotions with her enthralling theatrical approach...

This new album starts by the joyful notes of the title track, "Vivi. Lotta. Pensa." (Live. Struggle. Think.). It's the new arrangement of a piece contained on the second album of the band, Il tempo della semina, a committed track about freedom, equality and solidarity that sounds still actual and crisp, between globalization issues and new revolutionary winds blowing all around the world.

Next comes a brand new track, "Narciso e Boccadoro" (Narcissus and Goldmund). It's a delicate, dreamy ballad inspired by the 1930 novel of the same name by Swiss writer Hermann Hesse, also published as Death and the Lover. The novel tells the story of Goldmund, a young man who wanders around aimlessly throughout Medieval Germany after leaving a Catholic monastery school in search of what could be described as "the meaning of life", or rather, meaning for his life (quote from wikipedia). Here the ethereal interpretation by Mariolina Sala evokes the last words of the protagonist before passing away and the souvenir of his old friend Narcissus...

The following "La canzone del padre" (The father's song) is a long, complex track that was originally released on Biglietto per l'Inferno's second album. It's about the generation gap and tells the story of a difficult relationship between a father and his son. Eventually the rebellious son grows up and becomes a popular pop singer but there's no way to heal that broken relationship. The band really breathed a new life into this piece with a sparking arrangement and a passionate interpretation...

"Mente Solamente" (Mind, lonely mind, nothing but mind) is another piece from the second album that here is completely reinvented blending psychedelic elements and joyful folksy passages. It's an almost instrumental track that invites to let your thoughts run free for a while on the steps of a strange dance...

The long epic "L'amico suicida" (A suicidal friend) closes the album. It was originally released on the eponymous 1974 debut work and was written in memory of an old comrade-in-arms of Claudio Canali who took his life during the military service. This is another great interpretation able to stir emotions with renewed energies...

On the whole, this is a really good album that is absolutely worth listening to.

Biglietto Per L'Inferno.Folk - 2009 - Tra L'Assurdo E La Ragione

Biglietto Per L'Inferno.Folk
Tra L'Assurdo E La Ragione

01. Il Tempo Della Semina (7:52)
02. Il Nevare (6:53)
03. Tra L'assurdo E La Ragione (3:25)
04. L'amico Suicida (2:40)
05. L'arte Sublime Di Un Giusto Regnare (4:51)
06. Una Strana Regina (7:04)
07. Ansia (5:29)
08. Confessione (7:05)
09. Tarantella Integrale (1:55)

- Mariolina Sala / vocals
- Claudio Canali / vocals, flute
- Franco Giaffreda / acoustic & electric guitars
- Carlo Redi / mandolin, violin
- Giuseppe Cossa / piano, harpsichord
- Renata Tomasella / flute, ocarina, bagpipes
- Ranieri Fumagalli / flute, ocarina, pipe
- Enrico Fagnoni / electric & acoustic basses
- Mauro Gnecchi / drums, percussion

Releases information
Re-recorded and re-arranged songs from their two albums, including also a new one (track #3)

Being one of my favourite, possibly even favourite band in the RPI genre, it was with considerable excitement that I heard the news late last year that Italian legends Biglietto Per L'inferno were reforming; not only reforming but releasing a new album as well. Truth be told, this is not entirely new in terms of the compositions as there is only one track that didn't appear on their other albums. The rest are reworked and re-recorded versions of songs that appeared on their eponymous 1974 debut and it's follow up, recorded not long after, but not seeing the light of day until 1992, Il Tempo Della Semina.
The suffix Folk has been added to the end of the bands name as although a folk element could be heard in the earlier incarnation the new Biglietto is a much expanded band with a more diverse range of acoustic instruments being used than before. As well as the obligatory flute which was always a key element of the bands sound we also have Accordion, Bagpipes, Ocarina, Mandolin, Violin, acoustic guitar, stand up bass, fife and recorder. Don't get the idea that this is an acoustic album through and through though as there's still plenty of heavy electric guitar work, another key element and the keyboards though now playing a less important role and now down to one player as opposed to two originally. Giuseppe Cossa is here, one of the original keyboard players, the other was Giuseppe "Baffo" Banfi who is present in a production capacity. Also present from the original band is drummer Mauro Gnecchi and vocalist/flautist Claudio Canali, who retired to a monastery, makes a small guest appearance.

The most noticeable difference to fans of the band will undoubtedly be Canali's replacement, female vocalist Mariolina Sala. She's certainly got a good dramatic voice and it puts an interesting slant things but may be a bit of an aquired taste for some people. Personally I'm very happy with her performance here. The rest of the new members all fill their rolls with admirable aplomb with guitarist Franco Giaffreda playing with a more modern metal style when in his heavier moments than the heavy and raw style of Marco Mainetti.

Moving onto the compositions; as mentioned earlier the album consists in the main of reworked versions of their two seventies studio albums. While some don't stray too far from the original arrangements, the most obvious being Confessionne which retains it's hard rocking status, others sound considerably different. The diverse range of folk musicians/instruments brought in not surprisingly has had considerable impact. Il Nevare now starts with a jazz inflected double bass and vocal led start before accordion leads in the rest of the band and turns it into much more of a folk tune. It has also increased by a couple of minutes in length to make room for more instrumental interplay with a suitably powerful yet tasteful electric guitar solo. The same however can't be said for the epic L'amico Suicida. When I say epic I refer to the original version which has now been reduced from the symphonic behemoth that it was into less than three minutes. Now it's a short accordion and bagpipes dominated instrumental and a shadow of its former self.

Where they don't stray too far from the original arrangement, the most obvious difference between these versions and the originals, apart from the change to female vocals of course is the songs now have a more refined feel, played with more finesse and do sound great but I do have a preference for the rawness and fire of the originals which was an important part of their charm. The large use of acoustic instrumentation has also reduced the important role the keyboards played originally too. Fans of the highly regarded Il Tempo Della Semina (the song, not the album), depending on your point of view, may be relieved to know it hasn't been tampered with too much. Perhaps though, that misses the point as if you're going to revamp material that was pretty much spot on the first time around then it's worth going all out to do something different. Fortunately I think they've got it just about right here; there's enough difference to make it worthwhile without cries of sacrilege coming from the Biglietto faithful.

Don't be fooled about this "a collection of old songs" tag on this album. This album is essential a brand new album. The old songs has been stripped bare and an acoustic folk rock sound has replaced the old songs. It is what Bruce Springsteen did with his classic song Born To Run when he stripped the song bare and did it acoustic. The result was a brand new song which still retained the majestic greatness of the old Born To Run.

That's too is exactly the case with Tra L'assurdo E La Ragione too. Great songs like Una Strana Regina and Confessione from their first two albums has been stripped bare and acoustic instruments and some excellent female vocals has been added. Which proves that great songs never dies. In particular Una Strana Regina is excellent in it's new version. It was also an excellent song in it's electric version from 1974.

Throughout this album, Biglietto Per L'Inferno's identity is never in doubt. You can hear their DNA throughout their very radical adaptations of their old material. I am not the biggest fan of this band. But their sound is not possible to mistake for another band. Electric or acoustic. With or without a .folk appendix at the end of their name; Biglietto Per L'Inferno makes a lot of noise with their album. Accordion, female vocals, flute, bagpipes and violin has replaced the electric guitars. But this is still the same noisy band.

All those who liked their first two albums is really in for a big treat with this album. Don't regard it as a cheap re-recording of their old stuff. Tra L'assurdo E La Ragione is indeed a brand new album which will make your jaw drop to the floor. Just like my experience when I was listening to it for the first time.

I am not able to decide which version of this band I like best. Biglietto Per L'Inferno from the 1970s or Biglietto Per L'Inferno.folk. I have decided to enjoy their music and that's all.

Biglietto Per L'Inferno - 2005 - Live 1974

Biglietto Per L'Inferno
Live 1974

01. Il Tempo Della Semina
02. Ansia
03. Confessione
04. Una Strana Regina
05. Il Nevare
06. L'Amico Suicida

- Claudio Canali / vocals, flute, tenor flugelhorn
- Fausto Branchini / bass
- Giuseppe 'Baffo' Banfi / keyboards, Gem organ, mini-moog synthesizer
- Giuseppe 'Pilly' Cossa / keyboards, Hammond organ, piano
- Mauro Gnecchi / drums
- Marco Mainetti / electric guitar, acoustic guitar

Recorde live in Lecco on May 9, 1974 during the tour with UFO

For fans of RPI live albums are somewhat rare. As most with even a passing knowledge of RPI know.. there were scores and scores of 'one-shot' groups that released high quality, interesting music and albums then... poof.... disapeared like a fart in the wind. Biglietto Per L'Inferno's self titled debut album has been a favorite since the day I got my hands of it. I had heard of a live album by Biglietto Per L'Inferno but just hadn't got around to getting it. Enter that very special person in my life, who in addtion to her vast musical knowledge, is equally thoughtful and generous. She got me the album on the occasion of one of our vacations together in the mountains of North Carolina. I was taken with it immediately.
The sound quality is not the greatest. .but we are talking about a genuine live PRI album so a great deal is forgiven. While the warts of an imperfect recording are easy to notice.. they are more than offset by the fire and passion of the group and the music. Claudio Canali's voice just drips with passion and heart wrenching feeling. The songs are almost exclusively from their first album, with the lead off track Il tempo della semina being the exception, being from what would be their album of the same name, which wasn't released for 20 odd years. That's another review though.

The individual songs I've covered in previous reviews. The songs follow the same arrangements for the most part as the studio album and between the warts of the recording and/or limitations of the live format some memorable moments such as the staggering intro to L'amico suicida are lost or not accented as heavy.

A great live document.. without the spit and polish of recording that while sounding great lack the fire and energy of a recording that just ....sounds live.. without needing crowd noise added. For me.. as much as I love live albums..I do prefer the studio versions but there is a fire in these recordings that is worth hearing if a fan of Biglietto Per L'Inferno.

Biglietto Per L'Inferno - 1975 - Il Tempo Della Semina

Biglietto Per L'Inferno
Il Tempo Della Semina

01. Il Tempo Della Semina (10:13)
02. Mente Sola - Mente (2:55)
03. Viva Lotta Pensa (3:15)
04. L'arte Sublime Di Un Giusto Regnare (3:17)
05. Solo Ma Vivo (6:27)
06. La Canzone Del Padre (9:34)

- Claudio Canali / vocals, flute, tenor flugelhorn
- Marco Mainetti / acoustic & electric guitars
- Giuseppe Banfi / Gem organ, Minimoog
- Giuseppe Cossa / piano, Hammond L100
- Fausto Branchini / bass
- Mauro Gnecchi / drums, percussion

Recorded in 1974, released in 1992

Sophomore, last and posthumous album by Biglietto per l'Inferno, one of the undisputed masters of the heavier side of 70s Italian symphonic prog, "Il Tempo della Semina" never met its proper vinyl edition at the time. All in all, it happens to be one of those lost progressive rock gems that shouldn't be missed in a good collection. Definitely, the band remains loyal to its roots, formed by a combination of rocking dynamics, creative use of double keyboards by two stylistically different players, an important presence of Canali's vocal deliveries and a tight ordainment of the rhythm duo's foundations. All these are fueled into a harmonizing structure that feels even more robust than on the debut album, a stunning debut indeed. The level of compositional genius and the dose of dramatic musicality may not be as impressive as on the debut album, but you can tell that the arrangements and sonic interconnections among musicians are more accomplished, that is, they reveal a wider range of elaboration. It is such a pity that the sound production is not really in touch with this improved framework, but luckily we've recently got remastered editions of both albums, so this technical flaw does not feel as overwhelming. The original CD was taken from a presumably lost tape, and now we've got a new edition with a modified tracklist. Anyway, I'll comment on the first CD edition. The opener is the majestic 10 minute long namesake track, which follows a set of instrumental deliveries fluidly going through the various motifs: the flow is properly on clever links between sections that are alternately romantic, pompous, syncopated and almost spacey. The whole sung part is actually a soliloquy that trends somewhere between the ceremonious and the humorous, followed by a final instrumental section (Tull-meets-BMS). Once the fade-out end, the listener is left wanting more, and so the record continues. 'Mente Sola - Mente' is a playful theatrical interlude that mixes a circus mood with a mechanical vibrato (not unlike the closing track of BMS' "Darwin"). It is a funny little piece in which the sense of humor provides a light approach to the relevant issues of free thinking and the value of the individual mind. 'Vivi Lotta Pensa' states a very vibrant example of progressive complexity cleverly mixed with the power of rock: it isn't too long but it is well crafted in artsy terms. The same goes for 'L'Arte Sublime di un Giusto Reinare', which brings a Tullian feel to the band's signature approach to uptempo compositions. Believe me, these tracks are so catchy and, at the same time, so true to the spirit of symphonic rock, that perhaps they would have benefited from a longer expansion (a total of 4 or 5 minutes) in order to comply with their potential magnificence. Elaboration and expansion are not problems for the last two pieces. 'Solo Ma Vivo' starts with a slow, introspective section that sounds quite related to the more relaxed moments of the debut album; the final section erupts with power and intensity, with the guitar riffing and the tight drumming leading the way for the other instruments, while Canali sings the closing words. 'La Canzone del Padre' bears a more diverse structure (with featured presence of organ layers and fuzzed bass), less dramatic than the preceding song, with more room for playful passages. I agree with other fellow reviewers that the song lacks the sense of unity that prevailed in the namesake opener and in 'Solo Ma Vivo', but it is a great song anyway, and it makes an effective closure. Great, awesome, colorful - synonyms for Biglietto per l'Inferno and accurate descriptions for this particular album.

Biglietto Per L'Inferno - 1974 - Biglietto Per L'Inferno

Biglietto Per L'Inferno
Biglietto Per L'Inferno

01. Ansia (4:16)
02. Confessione (6:32)
03. Una Strana Regina (6:12)
04. Il Nevare (4:37)
05. L'Amico Suicida (14:23)

- Claudio Canali / vocals, flute
- Marco Mainetti / guitars
- Giuseppe Banfi / keyboards
- Giuseppe Cossa / keyboards
- Fausto Branchini / bass
- Mauro Gnecchi / drums

Considered by many as being one of the best expressions of Italian progressive music. After have been known at the Festival Be-In of Naples (June 1973), they recorded one single album with the same band name, released by Trident, revealing great musical passages mainly using synthesizers. 
They attended several Italian music festivals with fair results thanks mainly to singer, Claudio Canali, who moved through the stage, with great scenic approach. After disbanded a second effort was only released in 1992, titled "Il tempo della semina", containing material recorded in 1974. 

The debut album of Un Biglietto Per L'Inferno (A Ticket To Hell) is an amazing cocktail of spontaneous musical energies and poetry. You can hear here some echoes of Deep Purple, Jethro Tull and PFM but there's no plagiarism and the musicians seem to have shaped their own style trying to capture the energy of their live acts. The song-writing of the singer and flutist Claudio Canali is excellent and the lyrics draw some bitter reflections about the hypocrisy of the world. There are many changes of rhythm and mood but all the tracks are in someway bound together as in a long suite, as in a long way down on a "stairway to hell".
The opener "Ansia" (Anxiety) begins with a delicate sound of organ and guitar, then the rhythm becomes more varied and nervous; Claudio Canali's vocals come in at the end of the track introducing the "subject" of the album. The lyrics describe the feeling of uneasiness and apprehension that comes up from a "sad and infamous life spent in murdering and stealing" and the desperate quest for a saviour, for someone who can ease the pain and give hope. Charlatans, merchants, prophets or priests, it doesn't matter. A good prologue to the next track!

The lyrics of "Confessione" (Confession) describe a dialogue between a killer and a friar. The music is full of energy and rage, with "shades of Deep Purple" melting in "tarantella" and passages with flutes "à la Jethro Tull". The singing of Claudio Canali is definitely convincing and his voice seems almost trying to find a reason for the wind of violence that was blowing so strongly in the Italy of the early seventies. "Listen to me, friar / I don't know if I committed a sin / I killed a bastard who wanted cover his dirty past by means of his money / Trying in this way to cheat his fate. Listen to me, friar / And tell me if you call it a sin or a noble act / I steal some money of a rich gentleman / Just to give something to eat to a dying man". But in this album there's no much room for hope and the verses with the answer of the friar are just a dark prelude to the tragic epilogue of the fifth track: "I can't save you from the eternal fire / You have just a ticket to Hell"! This song is the trademark of the band.

Good organ work introduces "Una strana regina" (A strange Queen). The music is a blending of church-like music, Jethro Tull influences, hard rock and Italian folklore. Claudio Canali's vocals seem to be drenched in pessimism while the dialogue between the killer and the friar continues. "A strange queen rules on the Earth / She lives in castles formed by every street / She changes her dress every evening / Her name is hypocrisy. Let's hope that our God from the hereafter can see and forgive us for our impiety".

"Il nevare" (The Snowing) is another great track, with some almost "bluesy" passages and a soaring electric guitar in the forefront. Claudio Canali defined this track as a "laic prayer" and the lyrics seem to invite to meditation and introspection suggesting that, even in a life where hypocrisy and evil rule, you can find joy just contemplating the nature and the snow falling down. "Heavy snowflakes felt down that day / They wet my eyes / Lost in the light / Lost in the effort of knowing, of seeing / How much pure joy from a simple snowing. Far away a bell-tower reminded of a prayer / Over the roofs ancient shadows were celebrating the evening". In my opinion this is one of the best moments of the album.

The long and complex "L'amico suicida" (The suicidal friend) is highly dramatic. The lyrics are autobiographical, inspired by the suicide of a Canali's comrade-in-arms during the military service. "Around your body there's a halo of death.": Canali's vocals are dark and full of commotion, the music flows powerful and melancholic along more than 13 intense minutes. "There was a long rumble of sound, and it seemed to him that he was falling down a vast and interminable stairway. And somewhere at the bottom he fell into darkness. That much he knew. He had fallen into darkness. And at the instant he knew, he ceased to know." Well, just a little quote from Jack London's novel Martin Eden that in my opinion fit perfectly with the conclusion of this "epic"..

Before the end of the album, there's still room for a nice short instrumental reprise of "Confessione". In the whole, I think that this is definitely an essential work in an Italian prog collection.

Bauhaus - 1974 - Stairway to Escher

Stairway to Escher

01. The Lonious Gropious
02. Modulor
03. Bijoux
04. Section Aurea
05. Stairway To Escher
06. Ri-Fusion
07. Tipi Di Topoi

Luigi Calabro / guitar
Claudio Giusti / saxophone
Alberto Festa / keyboards
Paolo Damiani / bass
Rino Sangiorgio / drums

BAUHAUS is an impressive five-piece fusion set from the early 70s who never released an album until the live cd "Stairway to Escher" was pressed by Akarma in 2003. Three of their musicians (guitarist Luigi Calabrò, bassist Paolo Damiani and drummer Rino Sangiorgio) have been members of BUON VECCHIO CHARLIE. However, BAUHAUS is totally different, their material featuring instrumental jazz-rock heavily influenced by the likes of WEATHER REPORT and MILES DAVIS.

"Stairway to Escher" is a live 'in-studio' recording done at Festa Garage Studios in Rome, in May 1974. The technical proficiency of these musicians is astounding and the production surprisingly good for a 30-year old treasure. The keyboards (particularly the electric piano), the saxophone, guitar, bass and drums all get into some serious blowing that will satisfy the most blasé jazz-rock fans.

Born out of the ashes of Buon Vecchio Charlie, this Italian Jazz Rock combo was equal unlucky at its precursor, not having the chance to come up with a proper recording during its brief career.Three member of Buon Vecchio Charlie participate on Bauhaus, guitarist Luigi Calabro, bassist Paolo Damiani and drummer Rino Sangiorgio along with sax player Claudio Giusti and keyboardist Alberto Festa.Bauhaus performed at the Villa Pamphili festival in Rome in 1974, where they won the Best Italian Band prize and their only documents come from a live session at the Festa Garage Studios around the same time.However these recordings would only see the light some 30 years later as a posthumous album, released on Akarma under the title ''Stairway to Escher''.
Buon Vecchio Charlie had their jazzy moments as well, but the new step on this early Italian Prog group's members was definitely in a much jazzier vein, extremely close to compatriots PERIGEO, who were quite succesful at the time, with loose arrangements, rich solos and a sense of freedom among their musical ideas.Slight WEATHER REPORT and RETURN TO FOREVER inspirations are also present throughout the listening.The seven pieces follow the vein of electric Jazz Rock with extended jamming parts and alternating climates, starting from mellow sax-based intros and ending in a fiery Jazz Rock attitude with pounding bass and drum parts, very sharp electric guitars and ethereal electric piano lines.Lots of inventive sax leads, some nice interplays and of course tons of individual jazzy solos are present as well.The tracks contain very dense instrumental music with little space for breathing and often an abstract, quirky style with constantly shifting performances.The result is pretty good with some of Calabro's guitar moves being absolutely fascinating, while Festa's dreamy electric piano is propably the main reason of the CHICK KOREA-related similarities.

Akarma reissued the album in vinyl for die-hard fans of collectable issues and any fan of PERIGEO, dense electric Fusion and sax-fronted Jazz Rock should be a proud owner of this album.Warmly recommended.